Admitting Drug Use on Police Application | The Risks and Rewards


Career Consultant & Blog Writer

Published: May 8, 2023 | Updated: May 25, 2024

If you’re considering a career in law enforcement, you may be faced with the dilemma of whether to disclose past admitting drug use on police application. The decision to admit drug use on such an application can be a daunting one, as it has the potential to impact your candidacy.

This article explores the complex and sensitive topic of admitting drug use on a police application. It examines the importance of thorough background checks, the dilemma individuals face when disclosing drug use, the consequences of honesty or deceit, the role of rehabilitation and personal growth, alternative approaches to handling drug use, and the importance of case-by-case consideration.

Importance of Police Background Checks

Police background checks play a crucial role in ensuring the integrity and trustworthiness of law enforcement officers. These checks aim to identify potential risks and liabilities that could compromise an officer’s ability to perform their duties effectively and responsibly. They involve scrutinizing an applicant’s personal, criminal, and professional history, including past drug use.

The Dilemma of Admitting Drug Use

The Consequences of Drug Use

Drug use can have far-reaching consequences, including physical, psychological, and social harm. It can impair judgment, lead to dependency, and increase the risk of engaging in illegal activities. Recognizing the potential risks associated with drug use, police departments take the matter seriously when assessing an applicant’s suitability for the job.

Legal and Ethical Implications

Admitting drug use on a police application raises legal and ethical considerations. While honesty is valued, the disclosure of drug use may create doubts about an individual’s suitability for a law enforcement role. Police departments must balance the need for transparency with the potential risks associated with drug use.

Honesty vs. Concealing Information

Impact on Trust and Integrity

Honesty is a fundamental requirement in law enforcement. Officers are entrusted with upholding the law and protecting the community. Admitting drug use demonstrates integrity, transparency, and a willingness to confront past mistakes. It can enhance trust between law enforcement and the public they serve.

Legal Consequences of False Statements

Concealing drug use on a police application can have severe legal consequences. If discovered during the background check or at any point during an officer’s career, it can lead to termination, loss of credibility, and potential criminal charges. False statements undermine the integrity of the application process and erode trust within the department.

The Role of Rehabilitation and Personal Growth

Demonstrating Accountability and Change

Rehabilitation and personal growth play a crucial role in an individual’s journey toward overcoming drug use. Acknowledging past mistakes and taking steps to address them demonstrate accountability and a commitment to change. Police departments may value applicants who have sought rehabilitation, undergone counseling, or participated in substance abuse programs as evidence of their personal growth and readiness for a law enforcement career.

Supporting Recovery and Rehabilitation

Law enforcement agencies recognize the importance of supporting recovery and rehabilitation efforts. They may provide resources, such as employee assistance programs or access to counseling services, to help officers maintain their well-being and manage any residual challenges associated with past drug use. This support system acknowledges that individuals can overcome their struggles and contribute positively to the community.

Alternative Approaches to Handling Drug Use

1. Comprehensive Background Assessments

Rather than solely relying on a binary question about drug use on the application, some police departments have implemented comprehensive background assessments. These assessments delve deeper into an applicant’s history, allowing for a more nuanced understanding of their experiences, personal growth, and suitability for the job. This approach enables a fair evaluation of an individual’s character and potential contributions to the law enforcement field.

2. Assessing Individual Circumstances

Police departments may take into account various factors when evaluating an applicant’s drug use history. They may consider the type of drug used, the frequency and recency of use, the circumstances surrounding its use, and the applicant’s actions taken since then. Assessing individual circumstances helps distinguish between experimental drug use in the distant past and more concerning patterns of substance abuse that could raise red flags.

3. Balancing Transparency and Judgment

The challenge lies in striking a balance between transparency and judgment when it comes to admitting drug use on a police application. Police departments must ensure that applicants are forthcoming about their past, enabling an informed decision-making process. Simultaneously, they must exercise judgment to differentiate between candidates who have learned from their mistakes and those who pose a potential risk to the community.

The Importance of Case-by-Case Consideration

Recognizing that each individual’s circumstances are unique, police departments must approach drug use disclosures on a case-by-case basis. This approach allows for a fair and comprehensive evaluation, considering factors such as the severity of drug use, rehabilitation efforts, demonstrated personal growth, and the passage of time since the last instance of drug use. Case-by-case consideration ensures that deserving candidates are not unfairly excluded based solely on their past drug use.


The decision to admit drug use on a police application is a complex and deeply personal one. While honesty carries its risks, it demonstrates integrity and a commitment to personal growth. Police departments must balance the need for transparency with the potential risks associated with drug use.

By navigating this process with honesty and a clear understanding of departmental policies, candidates can align their personal histories with their professional aspirations, contributing to a more nuanced and inclusive approach to recruitment in law enforcement.

FAQs with Answers about Admitting Drug Use on Police Application

Can you join the police if you have taken drugs in the UK?

In the UK, the guidelines for admitting drug use when joining the police can vary among different police forces. Generally, each application is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Some forces may have specific requirements regarding the timeframe since the last drug use or the type of drug used. It is crucial, to be honest on your application and during the selection process, as providing false information can lead to disqualification.

What drugs disqualify you from being a police officer in Florida?

In Florida, the use of certain drugs is generally considered disqualifying for police officer candidates. These drugs include but are not limited to cocaine, LSD, heroin, MDMA (ecstasy), and methamphetamine. The exact disqualifications can vary among different agencies and may depend on factors such as the nature and recency of drug use. It is advisable to consult the specific requirements of the law enforcement agency you are interested in joining.

What will disqualify you from being a police officer in the UK?

Disqualifications for becoming a police officer in the UK can vary depending on the police force and the specific circumstances. Some common factors that may lead to disqualification include a significant criminal record, involvement in illegal activities, dishonesty during the application process, serious financial difficulties, and a history of drug or substance abuse. It is essential to review the eligibility criteria provided by the police force you intend to join.

How to become a police officer in Los Angeles?

To become a police officer in Los Angeles, you must meet the eligibility requirements set by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Generally, the process involves several steps, including:
Meeting the minimum age requirement (typically 21 years old)
Possessing a high school diploma or equivalent
Being a U.S. citizen or having permanent residency with the intent to become a citizen
Having a valid driver’s license
Passing a written examination, physical fitness test, and background investigation
Completing an interview and psychological evaluation
Graduating from the Police Academy and successfully completing the probationary period

Should I admit to drug use on my police application even if it was a one-time occurrence?

It is generally recommended to be honest on your policy application. Even if the drug use was a one-time occurrence, transparency demonstrates integrity and a willingness to confront past mistakes.

Will admitting drug use automatically disqualify me from becoming a police officer?

Admitting drug use does not automatically disqualify you. Police departments consider various factors, such as the severity and recency of drug use, rehabilitation efforts, and personal growth, when evaluating an applicant’s suitability.